Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America, and was awarded 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Zoned out: Hogs looked lost in half-court setting
NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER Arkansas' Adrio Bailey struggles to shoot while Georgia Tech's James Banks III and Brandon Alston defend Wednesday at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Arkansas lost 69-65.
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Mike Anderson wants his offense to work inside-out and funnel through forward Daniel Gafford.
Wednesday night, the Razorbacks played perimeter-oriented basketball on the offensive end against Georgia Tech's 2-3 and 1-3-1 zones for a majority of the game, contributing to a 69-65 loss. Arkansas shot 10/32 from 3-point range, the most attempts in a loss in Anderson's tenure.
Isaiah Joe, who entered the game shooting 63.2 percent from deep in December, finished the night 3/12 from beyond the arc and Mason Jones made 5/13 attempts. Jalen Harris missed all three of his 3-point looks, too, after coming into the game 2/21 from distance on the season.
Simply, the Razorbacks were complacent and failed to move the defense side to side or properly attack the zone, finding the soft spot around the free throw line and elbows infrequently and with little success, which frustrated Anderson, who said Arkansas works against similar defenses every day in practice.
"I don't know if panic set in or whatever, but the middle was wide open and every time it went to the baseline we got good stuff, and when we threw it in the middle we got good shots," he said. "We just didn't stay with it. We didn't stay with it, and I thought we settled."
Arkansas' struggles against the zone began almost immediately following tipoff, scoring just two points - Gabe Osabuohien free throws - and turning the ball over three times over its first 10 possessions against it. The Razorbacks did respond to the slow start to close the first half, finishing 8/17 from the floor and 5/13 from 3-point range in 25 offensive possessions.
While 3-point shooting severely hampered the Razorbacks early in the first half, turnovers plagued them against the zone throughout the second. Arkansas committed three turnovers in its first 10 possessions after the halftime break and seven over their first 20 against the set half-court defense.
The rough stretch to begin the second half even included a pair of rare turnovers from Harris, who up until those plays had not turned the ball over in roughly 95 minutes of action - since Colorado State on Dec. 5. Arkansas' 16 turnovers were its second-most in a game this season. Wednesday also marked the first time since the season opener the Razorbacks failed to finish with more assists than turnovers (16 assists, 16 turnovers).
Aside from effort and rebounding, Anderson cited his team's carelessness with the ball as one of the key reasons for the loss. Each Arkansas' five guards had at least two turnovers, which resulted in 13 Georgia Tech points.
"We were telegraphing our passes and you can't do that," said Anderson, who Thursday hinted at a potential shakeup in the lineup. "They scored a lot off our turnovers and lot of those were unforced. They weren't pressing us or playing in the passing lane. They just played a little zone, so it was our inability to execute. We've just got to execute a lot better."
Though it appeared Arkansas did make a more concerted effort to play inside-out after halftime, buckets inside the arc were hard to come by as well. The Razorbacks were 5/17 on 2-point looks against the zone in the second half and 4/13 in their first 20 possessions after the break.
For the game, the Razorbacks were 15/42 shooting, 7/21 from distance and turned the ball over 12 times in 52 possessions against the Yellow Jackets' zones.
Junior Adrio Bailey's slump continued as he finished scoreless for the second time in three games. He was 0/4 from the floor with all of his misses coming at the rim. Three of his four shots were blocked by Georgia Tech forward James Banks. Joe also made just 2/5 attempts inside the 3-point line.
So, what's Anderson's message to his team after a pair of disheartening losses at home in the last 10 days?
"I think you learn from the failures that you have," he said. "In all the games we've had we've been right there, but being right there is not good enough. ... I didn't think we did a very good job attacking their interior defense. You've got to start inside-out and we started outside-in.
"I think we've got to get better from the standpoint of executing against a zone."
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